The Home Office may have been using data to remove migrants from Britain. The startling report comes from a leak of highly sensitive emails exchanges between senior Home Office officials. The report will only add to the woes currently going on at the beleaguered government department after several stories that call into question how the department has been run.
Immigration officials used the data that was designed to protect rough sleepers to target those who could be removed from the UK back to their country of origin. The leak shows that officials had requested access to the data repeatedly and they were finally given access to a map produced by the Greater London Authority (GLA) that had categorised sleepers including by nationality. This meant that workers who had been tasked with helping rough sleepers were being used as data collectors for the Home Office.
Human rights group Liberty stated that the Home Office had shown a "crisis of compassion". It also stated that it would complain to the European commission. Many agencies and charities have access to the system called CHAIN which stands for the Combined Homeless and Information Network, it is this system that the Home Office used to deport rough sleepers. Access was restricted to Home Office officials after homeless charities raised concerns at the possible misuse of the data by it.
During the period that began in September 2016, data shows that there was an increase in forced removals of EU nationals. There was a 41% increase in the number of EU nationals held in the final quarter of 2016 against the second quarter. The misuse of the data will once again bring into sharp focus the lengths at which the Home Office has gone to in order to deport foreign nationals. In recent days the department has been highly criticised over its handling of a case of an American doctor and his adopted children coming to the UK.
Human rights groups are in outrage about the latest failure of compassion by the department. Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty said: "Vulnerable foreigners have been systematically targeted by a government obsessed with deportation, whatever the human cost. Children have been kept away from schools. Pregnant women and other in need of medical help are avoiding seeking it.
"Now even people forced to sleep on the streets will be frightened to seek support. Who knows where else the Home Office's poisonous tentacles have reached? There is a crisis of compassion in our political system and it needs to be exposed and undone. The government must come clean and end these secret deals - or we will look to challenge them in court."
In response, the Home Office stated: "No one should come to the UK with the intention of sleeping rough, and those who are encountered doing this may be misusing their free movement rights. We work closely with councils and homelessness outreach services to ensure that those who are vulnerable receive the care they need, while supporting local authorities to tackle illegal immigration in their communities."